Things not to worry about very much

What this study finds: In 2015 and 2016, a total of $2 billion in stolen wages ($880.3 million in 2015; $1.1 billion in 2016) were recovered for workers by the U.S. Department of Labor ($246.8 million in 2015; $266.6 million in 2016); by state departments of labor and attorneys general in 39 states ($170.0 million in 2015; $147.5 million in 2016); and through class action settlements ($463.6 million in 2015; $695.5 million in 2016). These represent wages stolen by employers who, for example, refuse to pay promised wages, pay employees for only some of the hours worked, or fail to pay overtime premiums when employees work more than 40 hours in a week.

Hmm, OK, very bad, shouldn’t happen, ain’t it great we’ve got people to deal with this.

Except, of course. US economy is some $18 trillion or so. Labour share is 60%, around and about. Compensation to workers therefore is some, eh, $11 trillion. A year. So, $1 billion of that is 0.01% a year or so.

Sure, shouldn’t happen but not one of the world’s great problems.

BTW, wonder what the budget of the wage enforcement office of the US Dept of Labor is? More or less than this? And, further, add in all the State departments of such. All of those costs coming out of the income of someone or other….

How ignorant can people be?

Ignorant enough to get a Guardian column apparently.

Troublingly, we seem to have fully accepted the shift from education as a social good to a product sold to students on grounds of higher earnings in the jobs market.

The entirety of the expansion of the university sector was sold to us on those higher earnings. Those with degrees earn more, therefore if more people have degrees then more will earn more.

Not that it works that way of course.

Isn’t this interesting?

Is Donald Trump about to turn America into Kansas? It’s a question some worried people who live in the state are asking as the Republican party pushes through the biggest tax overhaul in a generation – an overhaul that, they claim, bears an uncanny resemblance to a tax plan that left their midwestern home in disarray.

After a failed economic experiment meant to boost economic growth blew a hole in the Kansas budget as big as a prairie sky (a $350m deficit in the current fiscal year and nearly $600m in the next) state jobs and services have been slashed.

Total spending is some $15 billion. A 2% of budget deficit isn’t “as big as a prairie sky.” GVA (ie, state GDP) is $150 billion or so. 0.2% of GDP deficit?


Beats the wrong kind of snow

Motorway snow chaos caused by lack of cars as ‘Black Monday’ looms for commuters

Technically it’s true as well, as the wrong kind was:

However, Highways England claimed it had eight gritters patrolling the road continually but said there had not been enough cars in the morning to adequately spread rock salt across the road.

“There was a lot of snow, and the action of the salt relies on traffic, and it was a Sunday and the emergency services were telling people not drive, so there were not enough cars for it to be effective,” said a spokesman.

No, they’re lying

Rail users in Britain are paying 50 per cent more per mile than throughout most of Europe, a new survey has revealed.
According to researchers, travellers in Britain pay on average 50p per mile compared with just 5p in Latvia.
Austrian train users pay on average 33p with those in France, Holland and Switzerland paying between 28p-31p.

That’s true.

Chris Johnson, head of operations at Vouchercloud said: ‘An average price increase of 3.4 per cent across the rail network is not a huge amount in and of itself.
‘However, when we actually have numbers that show our train prices are already the most expensive across the whole of Europe on a consistent basis, it tells a whole different story.
‘The very least we can expect is an improvement in service and reduction in delays and cancellations – and if that doesn’t happen again this year, then we’re justifiable in our complaints that a once proud, still hugely important transport network here in the UK is holding commuters hostage.’

And that’s lying.

The difference is not in the cost of the railways, it’s in who pays. Either the passengers or the general taxpayers are going to cough up. The British system has the passengers paying for (near) 100% of the operating costs, the European systems have the taxpayers carrying more of it. Myself I think that those who travel should pay to travel, something that of course is open to disagreement. But the move from “passengers pay more” to “the railways are more expensive” is lying.

There’s a solution to this

Four out of 10 council homes sold under Margaret Thatcher’s flagship right-to-buy policy are now in the hands of private landlords, with their tenants paying more than twice the rent levels charged by local authorities.

Raise council rents to market rates.

Yes, this will mean the housing benefit bill rises, at least to start with. But then we should see the true cost of housing policy, shouldn’t have substantial parts of it off hidden in opportunity costs.

Just to clarify. If we can get £x in rent from a property, but only charge £x/2 for it, then £1/2x is a cost of our housing policy. It’s not obvious, not in the open, but it’s still a cost. Better by far to have all costs open so that we can at least consider them.


The Government’s social mobility adviser is quitting over claims that ministers are failing to make the “necessary progress” to “bring about a fairer Britain, it emerged last night.

Alan Milburn, a former Labour Cabinet minister has said there is “zero prospect” of the government tackling social mobility.

It was reported last night that was joined in walking out by his three fellow commissioners, including the Conservative former cabinet minister Baroness Shephard.

Given the reports they’ve been releasing we should welcome this, no?

Idiot damn stupidity from the UN

The United Nations monitor on extreme poverty and human rights has embarked on a coast-to-coast tour of the US to hold the world’s richest nation – and its president – to account for the hardships endured by America’s most vulnerable citizens.

There is no extreme poverty in the US. OK, slight correction, absent significant mental health or addiction issues there is none.

There’s inequality, most certainly there is, but that really isn’t the same thing.

At which point, a prediction about this report, as and when it comes out.

With 41 million Americans officially in poverty according to the US Census Bureau (other estimates put that figure much higher), one aim of the UN mission will be to demonstrate that no country, however wealthy, is immune from human suffering induced by growing inequality.

That US poverty number isn’t a measure of suffering nor of inequality and it most certainly isn’t one of poverty, not even just poverty let alone extreme such.

The American poverty number (this one, the Official Poverty Measure, OPM) is, very largely and accurately enough for government work, the number of people in poverty before what government does to alleviate poverty. The other measure, SPM (Supplemental etc etc) includes some but not all of what government does to alleviate and also is pegged to median income (the OPM is pegged to an absolute real income measure). It is thus a measure of inequality, not poverty.

Sure, the US welfare state isn’t as extensive as many in Europe but still, it does move the Gini by some 10 percentage points or so. But here’s the prediction – the UN report will ignore all of that and its starting point to measure US poverty will be the OPM. As near every other international comparison of poverty does.

Fun fact – food stamps. The average payment to the average recipient (that is, the average amount that someone getting food stamps gets, not the average across the entire population) is $29 per person per week. That is enough, yes controlling for different prices across geography, to put the recipient in the top 50% of global incomes. Another fun fact. The average real income (again, adjusting for prices across geography) of the bottom 10% of Americans is within a percentage point or two of the bottom 10% in Denmark, Sweden or the UK. Yes, after adjusting for free health care and all that. The bottom 5% over there do worse (20 to 30%) than the bottom 5% over here but it simply ain’t extreme poverty anywhere.

The bottom 0.5% of Americans, the homeless etc, yep, shitty – but then that’s significant mental health or addiction problems just as it is for us here.

But as I say, the UN report will ignore all of that, won’t it?

Benefit fraud

Benefit fraud has reached record levels after it rose by £200 million in the space of a year, the Department of Work and Pensions has admitted.

Fraud swallowed up almost £2.1 billion of the department’s total budget of £174 billion – the equivalent of £40 million per week.

That is interesting, isn’t it? Over 2%. When wages fraud, as we found yesterday, is 0.4%.

Well, no, this isn’t about executive pay at all

Along with the biscuits came the interest-free car loan of £31,489 and the £45,000 pay rise for 2015-16, taking Breakwell’s annual salary to £451,000, followed by a £17,589 pay rise for the following year, in the process making her the highest-paid university vice-chancellor in the country. In a university that has become a market leader in zero-hours contacts and low pay for junior staff this too did not go down well. More sensitive souls might have blanched, but Breakwell has stuck it out, even voting against an attempt to open up the proceedings of the remuneration committee that had awarded her the pay rises, a committee on which she also sits.

This is about the nomenklatura making hay with the peoples’ money.

Frank Dobson in a council flat in central London. An ex-Foreign Secretary refusing to move out of the grace and favour in Calton Gardens (?? Anyway, the short arsed one with a beard). The Politburo members taking their pick of the ballerinas.

Doesn’t government do things well?

The number of people starting apprenticeships has fallen by 59 per cent since the launch of a tax aimed at forcing businesses to invest more in training.

A total of 48,000 began an apprenticeship in the past three months, compared with 117,800 for the same period last year, Department for Education figures show.

Let’s have a policy to increase apprenticeships. The result is a decrease in apprenticeships.

Well done there, well one.

As I’ve pointed out before now

The forecast, unveiled at a conference in London yesterday, is based on the assumption that public sector pay will start to rise at around the same level as private sector pay. Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the IFS, said pay restraint had brought the wage gap back to where it was before the recession. ‘On average, public sector workers get paid more per hour than private sector workers,’ he said. ‘That’s not surprising – they have on average higher levels of education.
‘So, for example, you would expect a surgeon to get paid more than the average private sector worker.

‘Public sector pay restraint since 2010 has brought this ratio back to pre-crisis levels – it’s unwound the unintended increase in public sector pay relative to private sector pay that occurred during the Great Recession.’ At one point, in 2011/12, public sector wages were 18 per cent more than the private sector’s.

Public sector wages rose more than private under the one eye Scotchman, have fallen less since the recession.

Public choice economics in action

The failure to restore the power-sharing administration in Belfast is a direct consequence of the Tory-DUP deal to prop up Theresa May’s government. It is undermining the entire talks process and shattering any remaining pretence of British government impartiality.

Through her pact with the DUP, Theresa May has prioritised her own electoral survival over the interests of the people in the north of Ireland, who have suffered under years of Tory austerity and are now looking into the Brexit abyss.

Theresa May is rationally self interested in the career and life of Theresa May. The life of hose in Northern Ireland is interesting but a second order problem. According, of course, to Theresa May that is.

In other news, Nancy MacLean is still full of shit.

Guardian economics

The national debt has ballooned to £1.6tn, equivalent to 79.6% of GDP, and is forecast to keep rising for 2018. This vast sum is offset by wealth, largely in bricks and mortar, of more than £8tn.

Isn’t that cute? He’s compared what the government owes to households (including foreign ones) to the net assets of households.

It might be worthwhile to compare the government’s net asset value to its borrowings but to the populations’?

This is also pretty good:

Council tax £34bn
Any talk of reforming the only annual tax on property appears to be on the back burner despite a review of property values being 20 years overdue.

The good bit being that he’s already said:

Business rates £30bn
This tax on ​​premises

Premises/property are pretty goo synonyms, aren’t they?

It’s also pretty easy, given the way it’s all laid out, to balance the books.

Transport £35bn
Industry, agriculture and employment £23bn
Housing and environment £31bn
Other: including culture, sport and international development £53bn

Kill off all of those an we’re peachy, no?

This is truly fun about the Whitefish contract

So, Whitefish is the two man company that was hire to deal with Puerto Rico’s power system being down.

The basic idea of hiring a tiny company isn’t that strange. Much of the US Federal contracting system works this way. Hire some tiny company to run the subcontracting process – because that gets all of it away from the horribly restrictive rules on how direct Federal employees must be hired and treated.


So, why did this specific one win the contract? Well, there’s talk about political pull and who the hell knows? But something we do know. PR’s credit rating is somewhere between non-existent and in the toilet. The other companies contacted were asking for substantial upfront payments therefore. Whitefish asked for much less in advance.


When asked by the CNN interviewer if he would do this again, Techmanksi paused and replied: “I would, I would do a lot of things different.”

“I would probably get paid a lot more up front to cover the risks.”

Oh, why’s that?

Prepa said that pending payments had been halted after a Whitefish subcontractor contacted the authority requesting the stoppage because Whitefish owed them money. “Faced with this claim, Prepa had to stop the pending payments to Whitefish until the situation with the Whitefish subcontractor is clarified,” its statement read.

Isn’t that a classic move? Bankrupt your supplier and then cut the amount owed through negotiating with the liquidator. Or even taking over the company itself now that it’s bust. Or, perhaps, negotiating down the amount that must be paid to aid it in avoiding bankruptcy.

And the reason Whitefish got the contract was because those other potential suppliers were wise to this perhaps? Or even, were large enough that the trick couldn’t be pulled on them?

Rich in that coppery, vanadiummy, thing

The European Values thinktank, which has received money from the UK and US governments, as well as the European commission, recently published a report that listed more than 2,000 US and European politicians who have appeared on RT.

Monika Richter, the report’s author, said RT’s purpose was “to fundamentally pollute the information space”.

“People who don’t understand this issue very well might think it’s harmless to appear on a satirical show, but it’s a failure of judgment and a lack of imagination in understanding how insidious the whole machine is,” she said.

There is an actually EU owned and run TV station. But, you know, obviously, that propagandises for the right and just values on the taxpayers’ money so that’s alright then.

A surprise, yes?

The head of Puerto Rico’s power authority has resigned amid a scandal over efforts to restore electricity to the hurricane-hit island, its governor announced Friday.

Governor Ricardo Rossello told a news conference that Ricardo Ramos had resigned as executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to avoid “distractions.”

The power utility being one of the causes of the island’s bankruptcy, the mismanagement (for which read shading into outright corruption as well as incompetence) having been that extreme.

Or, as we might put it, the perils of a one party state where the placemen get to share the spoils.